About 50 firefighters are fighting a massive fire in Gore and parts of the town have been evacuated.
A fire communications spokesman said the fire service was called to the fire, in the Stock Foods New Zealand Ltd building on Railway Street, at 6.20pm.
Firecrews from Gore, Pukerau, Mataura, Riversdale, Tapanui and Invercargill are battling the blaze with an appliance from Wyndham on stand-by.
The Invercargill aerial appliance has been sent to the scene.
Fire Communications shift manager Andrew Norris said one 50m by 60m building is "totally involved in fire".
Crews are protecting dangerous goods in other buildings, including a sheetmetal business.
It was not known what had caused the fire but the main focus was on containing it, he said.
Police have shut down supermarkets, theatre, the Catholic church and pubs. Staff at the nearby BP petrol station said they could see two main buildings on fire and it appeared the fire was spreading to a third building.
Reports of an explosion could not be confirmed by the fire communications spokesman.
Gore woman Shona Hewlett said she was heading home when she saw the cloud of black smoke.
''The flames were huge...They just got huge really quickly. The wind was so strong,'' she said.
She also heard several explosions.
Police have urged people in the area to stay indoors because of the thick smoke.
- The Southland Times
Contact details for The Southland Times and community newspapers.
Order copies of images taken by Southland Times photographers.
Read our free publications online.
Win with us!
Click here for subscriber news and information.
How much food do you waste?Related story: Southlanders waste food